By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Milwaukee has a new a mayor, and his name is Cavalier Johnson. He is the first new mayor in nearly two decades and the city’s first Black mayor in its 176-year history.
Johnson beat former Ald. Bob Donovan in the spring election, which took place this past Tuesday, April 5. According to the city’s unofficial results, Johnson received 62,143 votes or roughly 71% of the vote while Donovan received 28,543 votes or roughly 28%.
Johnson celebrated his victory at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center with this family, among a crowd of supporters. Upon reaching the podium, Johnson noted that his message remains the same to build a safer, stronger and more prosperous Milwaukee.
“We want our city to be loving and to be nurturing and to be stable,” he said. “That’s why I ran for mayor. Tonight, we’ve taken a key step in renewing our city’s promise. We got a lot to do.”
Johnson, 35, previously served as an alderman for the 2nd District. During that time, he became president of the Common Council and assumed the role of acting mayor upon former Mayor Tom Barrett’s departure.
Barrett, who served as mayor for nearly 18 years, was appointed to the position of U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg late last year. His departure led to a special mayoral election, during which a handful of Milwaukeeans vied for the position during the spring primary.
Johnson will finish out Barrett’s terms, which ends in two years. Following that, the mayoral election cycle will continue as scheduled.
The next Common Council president will be elected on April 19.
Donovan’s election watch party took place at McKiernan’s Irish Pub, where he conceded to Johnson. During his remarks, he wished Johnson the best of luck and thanked his supporters.
“We’ve worked very hard,” Donovan said. “We rose up against the odds. I’m talking about an underdog – if you were to look up underdog in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of Bob Donovan in this campaign.”
He continued, “There’s never any shame in wanting something badly and going after it and coming up short.”
State Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) spoke during Johnson’s victory party. There is no relation between the senator and the mayor.
The senator has supported the new mayor since his political career began. He has potential and he has commitment, dedication and love for this city, she said.
“What a night! What a way to celebrate! And Chevy has kicked some butt. I am so excited about this good news” she said, adding. “If I didn’t believe Chevy had exactly what it takes to be an awesome mayor and the love for this city, I wouldn’t be up here.”
During his victory speech, Johnson said that the work ahead includes addressing gun violence and unsafe streets, restoring neighborhoods, creating jobs and fostering growth as well as repairing the city’s relationship with the state.
He thanked his family, his team, his supporters and the trailblazers who came before him.
“I stand on the shoulders of giants in this community,” he said. “Folks like Vel Phillips; folks like Gwen Moore, Isaac and Marcia Coggs, Mayor Marvin Pratt and so many more.”
Johnson noted that while he did not run to be Milwaukee’s first Black mayor, the symbolism isn’t lost on him. This is an important moment, he said.
“No matter where you live, no matter how much or how little your parents make and no matter the color of your skin – in Milwaukee, there’s a place for you too,” Johnson said.
The next step is to listen, he said, with safety and prosperity as the guides. No idea is too big or too small, he said, adding that he hopes that everyone from small business owners to bus drivers to CEOs to teachers share their ideas.
“In this campaign, my refrain has been that we will be safer, we will be stronger, we will create family supporting jobs and we will be the best city in America,” Johnson said. “We got so much to do it and we must do it together.”
He continued, “The changes that we seek won’t come as quickly we want or as fast as some may need, but they will come. And we will not rest until we’ve built the city of our imagination, the city of our dreams, the city that all of us deserve.”